The first phase of a project to bring solar-powered electricity to Tasso Island in Sierra Leone was initiated to begin to redress long-lasting effects of the movement of enslaved Africans to America to cultivate the rice industry.
TASSO ISLAND, SIERRA LEONE, December 28, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — According to a United Nations report, just turning the lights on could lift nearly 600 million people out of the depths of poverty. On December 17, 2020, DSA Development, Consult DSA and IslandAid Sierra Leone launched the first phase of a project to bring solar-powered electricity to the historically significant Tasso Island in Sierra Leone. DSA Development CEO Moorosi Mokuena explained, “What this translates into is the improvement of social services, health, and education, as well as the introduction of new economic opportunities, in turn enhancing the living standards of Tasso Island’s 5,000 residents.” On average, Tasso Island residents make less than an equivalent of $500 USD/year.
First Phase of the Solar Power Project
Currently, the five villages that are located on Tasso Island have one small source of electricity that powers a refrigeration unit in the island’s clinic. Consult DSA provided the seed funding for the project and sponsored the electrification of the clinic and primary and secondary schools. DSA Development Vice President Francis Conteh, a Sierra Leone native added, “Students who study after dusk use unreliable lighting sources such as firewood and kerosene lanterns whose smoke and light inconsistencies tend to do the most harm causing eye strain and breathing problems.” The team is seeking funding for the overall development project and to raise more than $50,000 to provide streetlighting throughout the four-mile square island and lighting on the wharfs.
Ultimately, the introduction of widespread electricity on the island will facilitate the use of conveniences to include public sanitized restrooms, community laundromats, refrigeration units, computers and laptops, and machinery to support the development of community enterprises. Dura Koroma, the Executive Director for IslandAid Sierra Leone acknowledged that, “Without electricity, food insecurity, health disparities and lack of economic development will remain on the island.”
Historical Significance and Connection to the United States
Bunce Island, just east of Tasso, was the largest British slave trading base in Sierra Leone by the mid-1700s. The British traders obtained its essential supplies: fresh water, rice, timber, and citrus fruit from Tasso Island for the slave ships that departed for America. Bunce Island has been called, “the most important historic site in Africa for the United States.” Many of Bunce Island’s captives were sent to South Carolina and Georgia where rice planters were willing to pay high prices for the enslaved African farmers from Sierra Leone.
DSA Development President Marva Goldsmith made a personal connection to the people of Tasso Island. “My ancestors are from South Carolina,” she says, “and visiting Bunce Island and Tasso Island, I had an immense feeling of sorrow knowing that this may have been the place where my ancestors were branded, chained and separated from family before the terrible voyage to America.” Many African Americans have roots in Sierra Leone, especially those from South Carolina and Georgia where a group of African Americans, called “Gullahs,” maintain many cultural influences, including a language similar to Krio, basket-weaving and rice dishes. Historians have shown that Bunce Island captives were also taken to Virginia, Florida, and other North American Colonies.
The proposed development on Tasso Island includes water purification and desalination, a Bunce Island Research Center, an eco-Resort, and a variety of community and economic development (managed by GEN Africa ) that focus on micro-businesses that will support the eco-resort and leverage the unique strengths, geography, and interests of the community.
Famed historian, Dr. Joseph Opala has been retained as a project consultant. Dr. Opala is noted for establishing the “Gullah Connection,” the historical links between the indigenous people of the West African nation of Sierra Leone and the Gullah people of the Low Country region of Georgia and South Carolina. For more than 30 years, he produced documentary films, museum exhibits, and popular publications on this historical connection.
IslandAid Sierra Leone is a Non-Governmental Organization that has core objectives to conserve and protect Islands environments and biodiversity; and to enhance the process for the sustainable livelihood of the Sierra Leone island communities. Since its formation in May 2010, IslandAid has conducted annual community educational events that raise awareness about environmental health, climate change, pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, island resilience and sustainable development.
DSA Development was formed in April of 2020 as a Sierra Leonean Limited Partnership. DSA Development was founded by the owners of Consult DSA, an American-based, Women-Owned Small Business that provides management consulting services to private, public, and nonprofit organizations. Consult DSA provided the seed funding for the project expenses and sponsored the first phase of the solar project.
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